South Africa rugby star Siya Kolisi battled alcoholism & sniffed petrol aged 10.. now he wants to make Springbok history | The Sun

SIYA KOLISI is hunting an historic World Cup triumph few could rival after overcoming childhood trauma few can relate to.

The South African rugby superstar started sniffing petrol and drinking before he was ten – but became the Springboks' first ever black captain well ahead of victory in the 2019 final against England in Tokyo.

Now a repeat victory over the Red Rose in Saturday's last-four clash would leave the 32-year-old's nation one win away from a record fourth crown.

South Africa and New Zealand have each lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy three times.

But to glimpse such a dazzling summit Kolisi has defied incredible difficulties.

His grandmum raised him in poverty, amid a country beset by crime and malnutrition.



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And Kolisi told the BBC his hunger pangs were sometimes so extreme "I would scream to my grandmother and she would get me sugar water and it would settle it down".

Not surprisingly, perhaps, he tumbled into trouble after she died.

Kolisi explained to The Guardian: “It’s tough to relive some memories. I remember losing my grandmother and her dying in my arms. 

"She was the closest person to me and I was not even 10 years old."

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The skipper rejoices with fans after the Springboks' stunning 29-28 triumph over hosts France in the World Cup quarter-final last SundayCredit: Rex
South Africa pulled off the performance of the tournament so far, with Kolisi again leading from the front, to set up the clash with EnglandCredit: Rex

He began drinking as well as sniffing petrol and feels sure it was rugby that saved him aged 12 – notably Eric Songwiqi, the inspiring coach of township club African Bombers.

But Kolisi revealed in his autobiography that alcoholism gripped him during his early days as an international, especially when he was just a fringe player at the 2015 World Cup in England.

The flanker wrote: "Whenever I had time off, I just drank.

"I was bored and feeling sorry for myself, there were other guys in the same boat always happy to hang out, and it was easy to hit the bars and pubs and be a good-time guy."

Kolisi's then-partner and now-wife Rachel even left the tournament early because of his problems.

But he has no doubt it was her who transformed his life and career – by persuading him to see a Christian mentor, Ben Schoeman

He recalled to The Guardian Schoeman telling him: “Siya, you drink a lot, you fool around with women, you go to strip clubs. You post on social media about your faith in Christ, but you’re lying to yourself and everyone else."

That rocked him. And now he's one of rugby's most famous faces and admired personalities, helped by his uniting influence within the Springboks' squad and his campaigning against gender violence within society.

Few people outside of England will begrudge him more glory this weekend – and then, if the Boks win that, against New Zealand or Argentina in the final at the same Stade de France seven days later.

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